Weekly Geeks 2009 #3: The Classics Part 1

This week’s Weekly Geeks assignment has four parts, only one of which I can tackle straight away.

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don’t get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it! 

I don’t have a huge list of classics on my desert island books list (the books I’d want with me if stranded). In fact there are none although Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would just about make the grade. And, being a fan of the mystery genre, I do have a well-read copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. However, I have a bit of an ‘issue’ with the classics.

I went through high school and university in Australia in the 80’s when studying English meant systematically dissecting classic literature. Perhaps I had a succession of bad teachers and lecturers but every book I read during that time brings back bad memories of having the soul sucked out of everything we studied. I had always read voraciously but pulling apart a book to discern the symbolism of every phrase and analyse the minutiae of the characters’ actions and motivations bored me senseless and took the joy out of my favourite pass-time. In fact I dropped English as part of my degree because I just couldn’t stand the thought of having yet another book to hate. As virtually all the books that I studied were classics I’ve tended to stay away from them en masse for my leisure reading ever since.

A few years ago my father gave me a set of leather bound classics that belonged to his mother. There are 20 small novels in fantastic condition and the collection includes Dickens, two Bronte sisters, Victor Hugo and others. About a third of the books are ones I studied during school or Uni so I stored the books away for a long time. But, as they’re the only thing I have from my dad’s side of the family, I recently unpacked them and put them on my bookshelves. It seemed churlish to keep them locked away. One day soon I plan to start reading them. Not studying them, just reading them.

I shall tackle the last question of this week’s challenge, about finding inspiration for classic reading from other Geeks, later on this week when there are more posts up.

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6 Responses to Weekly Geeks 2009 #3: The Classics Part 1

  1. Suey says:

    I think that is the best with classics… to just read them and not try to study them. So I do hope you get to do that soon!

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  2. Vasilly says:

    I agree with you. I’m an English major and having to tear any book apart just kills the love of literature for a lot of us. Sadly, I’ve been thinking about changing my major.

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  3. claire says:

    I hope you enjoy your father’s books! 🙂

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  4. alirambles says:

    I posted a very similar thing about the classics being temporarily ruined for me in college! Woe is us! I hope that when you pick them up again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, like I’ve been so far, by some books that are actually good reads if you just read them.

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  5. Care says:

    ==> pulling apart a book to discern the symbolism…

    Funny, I’ve yet to see any book blog post ever do this. (actually, I kind of liked doing this but only when I really REALLY liked the teacher…)

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  6. Dreamybee says:

    Oh, your leather-bound collections sounds wonderful! I hope you are able to enjoy them some day~what a shame to have them ruined by too many years of intense scrutiny. Sometimes the best part about a book is the story, a fact of which I’m afraid too many teachers lose sight.

    The more blogs I visit, I think that I was pretty lucky in that regard-one of the things I enjoyed about Shakespeare was just understanding what was being said, the jokes of the time, the meanings behind certain turns of phrases. Sure we analyzed them for all their symbolism and whatnot, but we were also able to enjoy the stories as well. I think my teachers did a pretty good job in that regard. 🙂

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